Principal Scientist - Sensory & Consumer science
Oriflame R&D Ltd
Sustainable innovative products, what does this mean?
Industries are launching innovative products to reduce their carbon footprints and answer consumer concerns. The food industry is contributing by launching sustainable products. The trend with “plant-based products” has gained popularity over the last couple of years in Europe. Moreover pack novelty is made by modifying it to combine with the formula/product and enhance the full product experience. Some new launches of vegan chocolates in Europe are now associated with 100 % plant-based packaging. (1)
Another food trend, named “Food is medicine” appeared a couple of years ago. Consumers are really looking for fresh food, full of vitamins and minerals, to consume them to maintain their health and avoid being sick. Fresh food such as meat and fruit are required to appear fresh and remain fresh to appeal to these consumers. Another important aspect is food waste, fruits and vegetables are major contributors since 45% is lost or unwanted during the supply chain (2). Innovations are made to use fresh skin packaging, as with meat products in Asian supermarkets or compostable fruit labelling in Europe to improve the product shelf-life and reduce food waste by maintaining or not damaging their appearances. (3,4)
The cosmetics industry is also contributing by using the external pack with recycled packs, or by making sheet masks compostable for example. Optimizing the use of the product is also appearing in new cosmetics launches. As example, new products would require less, or no water with waterless toothpaste formulations or rinse-less options such as dry shampoo/hair wash product. (5) Also new communications on pack are made to reflect this trend and make the consumer aware of the quantity of water used during the product experience.
How are these initiatives perceived by the consumer?
To understand how these innovations are perceived, Consumer Science methods are relevant. Consumer science methods were traditionally used for claims substantiation in specialized testing locations or at home for translating likeability, sensory performances, or preferences. Sensory and Consumer scientists have developed methods to enable quick instant feedback on likeability, usability and provide results during the product development process. As an example, focus groups and online surveys were set up to understand what a sustainable food packaging looks like from a consumer point of view (2,6). Ethnography studies were performed to film how a yogurt packaging with inner pack non-recyclable and an outer pack recyclable is binned by the consumers (7). Another example regarding the ability of rinse off cosmetic product where digital community and ethnography studies were used to translate consumer insights (8).
How can we get consumers feedback quicker?
The Climate change thread is perceived by consumers as imminent (9). Performing studies faster to enable results during the concept process is critical. Dynamic innovation methods such as Co Creation and Design Thinking allow to include the consumers as early as possible and understand the pain points regarding sustainability or eco responsibility perceptions of products (10, 11). Also Design Thinking enables us to test and validate a product concept with consumers.
Understanding the consumer behavior and including them in the development of a product are keys to help reduce waste and develop sustainable products.